Shrader runs to raise money for garden, statue
It’s almost been a year since Joel and Erin Stephens-Marner lost their daughter to heart disease.
Since then, the Stephens-Marner family and their friends have started raising money to build a bronze statue of a child and dedicate the children’s garden at the Palisade branch of the Mesa County Public Library in her memory.
Knowing the one-year anniversary of 4-year-old Destry Sage Stephens-Marner’s death is near (June 9), Sarah Shrader and her friends came up with an idea.
“All my friends called me around April and asked what can we do for them?” Shrader said. “I said, ‘What if I run a marathon to raise money for it? It’s the least I can do.’ “
Shrader, a mother herself, ran the Grand Valley Marathon on Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, through the peach orchards and wine vineyards of Palisade in an effort to raise money for the children’s garden and statue.
Donations can be made online at http://celebrationartproject.com/
Shrader met Erin Stephens-Marner through their children, who are the same age. They each have 9-year-old boys, and Shrader’s son, Oliver, is 5, born three months after Destry.
“Erin is part of my community of mothers I respect and love,” Shrader said. “I wanted to do something to honor Erin, too. This was one way I can do it.”
Destry loved books, the arts, the natural world and touched the lives of people around her in her short life.
“I wish I knew her better,” said Kate Pierce, another friend of Shrader’s. “Every time I was around her, she was always smiling. You could see she was taking in a lot of things. She had a quiet peace about her.”
Shrader, who has run marathons for 15 years, wore a specially made T-shirt donated by Rocky Top T-shirts. It has butterfly wings on the back and Destry’s name over her heart.
“At her memorial, we let 200 butterflies go at Riverbend Park,” Shrader said. “I had her name on my heart, because she had heart complications.”
They would like to get more people involved in raising money for the garden.
“Next year, we might sell T-shirts and have other people run 5K, 10K or half-marathons in honor of her and give pledges per mile,” Shrader said. “Then we could create this children’s garden at the Palisade library.”
Shrader set a goal of completing the marathon in four hours. She came close, completing it in 4 hours, 8 minutes, with the help of Destry’s spirit, Destry’s mother and Pierce, whose children are also similar in age to the other women’s.
“Kate, Erin and I were pregnant at the same time,” Shrader said. “I made a playlist on my iPod of all the songs that remind me of Destry.
“It sort of carried her spirit with me while I was running. It was not hard, though. Palisade is her hometown. I remember when we picked cherries at Talbott’s farms. I remember when we picked peaches over there.”
Stephens-Marner ran close to three miles with Shrader. Pierce ran the last five.
Pierce planned to be at the race Saturday to support Shrader and the Stephens-Marner family, but wasn’t sure how until late Friday night.
“I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do, so last night about 11 o’clock I decided I would come and run the last five miles,” Pierce said.
“Which is when the runner needs somebody,” Shrader added. “I told her I would’ve been walking if she hadn’t been there. I told her, ‘Just tell me another story, just ... tell ... me ... another ... story.’ “
“I told stories, talked about books, talked about friends,” Pierce said. “She did great. I can tell she was getting tired, then we picked it up. She did awesome.”